Notes: Bruins, Lightning use long layoff to prepare


Notes: Bruins, Lightning use long layoff to prepare

By JoeHaggerty

WILMINGTON, Mass. Strange days are here indeed for both the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning as they wait for the Western Conference to determine its finalists.

With victories from both the Predators and Wings over the weekend, the BostonTampa Bay series continues to get pushed back. Now it looks like things might not be getting started before Saturday at TD Garden.

But that hasnt stopped the Bruins coaching staff from working on their scouting reports and readying game plans as the Bs players plan to get moving with a Monday morning practice after enjoying a weekend off.

In strengths, weaknesses and style of play, the Lightning are a more explosive, slightly more disciplined version of the Montreal Canadiens, though they might not flop quite so much as P.K. Subban and the Montreal Diving Club.

The Bolts are also, however, a softer defensive unit that relies on a trendy trap over physical toughness, size and grit around the net when it comes to their defense corps.

Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher is credited with bringing a very innovative version of the 1-3-1 trap to the Lightning, but Bruins coach Claude Julien said the Lightning have different versions of the trap that they use to spring their golden offensive trio of Martin St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos.

Given that the Bruins had their hands full with Montreal in a seven-game series that featured some great individual performances from the now-injured Patrice Bergeron, it looks like it will be a competitive matchup between Boston and Tampa Bay once things finally do get going.

A healthy Bergeron would have given the Bruins an edge in the series, but now they head into the seven-game showdown as slight underdogs.

The Lightning are very good at taking care of the neutral zone and they make it hard to penetrate. They are also a team that throws a lot of pucks towards the net, said Julien. Montreal did that also. Whether it was from behind the net or from the corners or tough angles, they threw it at the net and they always had someone going there. There are a lot of similarities when it comes to that.

Defensively, they are a team that will collapse, overload and there are similarities with Montreal. They also have that skill level. So I think there are some of those things that are similarities with Montreal. But they still have their unique style and their coach has certain things he like to see from his hockey club that differs from the Montreal coaching staff.

Big defenseman Pavel Kubina and forward Simon Gagne are injured and werent with the rest of their Lightning teammates during a Sunday practice. Both took shots to the head in Game 1 of their sweep over the Capitals and havent played since; they're listed with "upper-body injuries". Based on the comments coming out of Tampa, Gagne is close to returning while Kubina might not be ready to go at the outset of the series.

The Bolts lost three of four to the Bruins during the regular season, but are a little different now. The first three meetings between the B's and Tampa Bay came before Jan. 1, when the Lightning acquired Dwayne Roloson and solved their goaltending problems. (Roloson didn't play in the post-Jan. 1 game between the teams, a 2-1 Boston victory at TD Garden on March 3.) Also, Lecavalier was injured for a large chunk of games in the middle of the season.

Meltdowns like the ones authored by goalies Mike Smith and Dan Ellis early in the season arent going to happen with Roloson in net.

Boucher noted the similarities between the teams in these playoffs -- both fell behind 0-2 in the first round (Boston against Montreal, Tampa Bay against Pittsburgh) but rallied to win in seven games; both swept in the second round (the B's against Philadelphia, the Lightning against Washington) -- and also pointed out that they finished the regular season with identical 46-25-11 records.

There are a lot of things that are pretty similar, he said.

Were expecting them to be who they are and nothing less. Once youre down to the Final Four and youre hoping for any little break in an opponent, then youre sadly mistaken.

Boucher repeatedly called Tim Thomas an enigma during his comments to reporters after Sundays practice, and pointed to the Bs goalie as the biggest potential difference-maker in the series.

That might a first for Thomas, but that might also be Boucher's way of motivating Roloson.

In any case, it's all just words . . . but that's all we're going to have until the puck finally drops at an undetermined point later this week.

Julien expanded on Claude Giroux' hit on Patrice Bergeron in the third period of Game 4 that has left the Bs center with a mild concussion. It came after Bergeron had executed a pass and taken three skating strides forward, and many within the Bruins dressing room felt like it was a very late hit.

The Bs coach agreed, but didnt feel it was dirty.

Its borderline," he said. "I just wish sometimes we dont want to take the physical part of the game out of it. It is part of it. You just wish somehow we could cut down on those concussions . . .

Youre told to finish your checks, but yet theres times where you say, Hes made the pass and lets turn and get back into the play. A lot of it is culture. I think its something that at some point you hope that everybodys going to get on the same page: players, coaches and everybody involved in the game of hockey. Weve got to change the culture here and try and minimize those things -- but its easier said than done.

Julien said that signing Shane Hnidy as an extra defenseman has provided the desired effect in the dressing room, where the Bruins have missed the leadership over the last few seasons. Thats a lament that Julien, general manager Peter Chiarelli and team president Cam Neely all made after Hnidy left, and its something they did well to address once the veteran defenseman had asked to rejoin the team once his shoulder healed.

Hnidy played less than three minutes in each of his two games against the Flyers in the second round of the playoffs, but hes still been impactful.

People talk about Shane, its one thing we really missed about him what he did in the dressing room, said Julien. He is a pretty determined and pretty important guy when it comes to the dressing room and getting his teammates ready. He is ready to do the job and he makes sure that everyone around him is as well.

Per the wonderful world of twitter and correspondent Mike Miccoli, Tyler Seguin will become the first top-five pick from the previous draft to play in the conference finals since Darius Kasparaitis in 1992-93.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Marchand still riding the wave of World Cup momentum

Marchand still riding the wave of World Cup momentum

BOSTON – Let this be an ominous warning to the rest of the NHL: the offensive onslaught from Brad Marchand doesn’t look like it’s going to subside anytime soon.

The Bruins left winger scored the tying goal and then set up Patrice Bergeron’s third-period winner in a 2-1 comeback win over the New Jersey Devils at TD Garden Thursday night, adding to his NHL-leading nine points (three goals, six assists) that sees him in a tie with San Jose Sharks D-man Brent Burns.

It’s been quite a line of progression from a player with a bit of a checkered reputation who started out on Boston’s fourth line Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton in the B’s Stanley Cup season, but then took off once he was teamed with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi halfway through that season.

“You could see the talent, you could see that he had the great shot, the great release, I thought he was a good skater. I mean he has improved and he has grown as a player no doubt. But the biggest thing that I think was holding him back was that balance that he needed between being more or less a pest and getting under other people’s skin, and using his skill level and being the player he could be,” said Claude Julien. “I think that he has found that in the last few years and become a very respectable player around the league and people now notice how good he is when it comes to the skill level and what he can do as far as being in the game, being a game changer and scoring some goals at opportune times.”

Marchand has now scored in all four games for the Bruins this season and has picked up right where he left off a couple of weeks ago as the leading scorer for Team Canada in the World Cup of Hockey tournament. 

The momentum from that tournament, and the confidence boost from skating on the best forward line there that featured the best players in the world, clearly has Marchand taking his game to a star level that he was just scratching while scoring a whopping 37 goals last season.

“I think there’s times where confidence level is high. Right now, I do feel good. I just feel I have a step ahead of where I normally am coming into the season. I think a lot of that is attributed to the World Cup [of Hockey],” said Marchand. “Obviously, it’s such a high level and you’re playing with such speed for a whole month. So I’m feeling really good. I kind of feel like I’m in midseason form when, most seasons, it takes 10 to 12 games to feel that way.

“Hopefully things continue to go the right way. I’m getting some good bounces and Pasta [Pastrnak] is on fire right now, and Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] is always going to be Bergy. I’m playing with some very good players.”

Clearly, the confidence is high when he scores a goal as filthy as the tying strike on Thursday night. Marchand wheeled through the neutral zone with speed, and then fired a shot from the right face-off circle right through Andy Greene’s legs and tucked inside the far post past a stretched out Cory Schneider. It’s the kind of thing that only the NHL’s best offensive players even attempt, and only the very best can execute with a little puck luck on their side.

“It is tough to get shots through, but if you get it off quick and through a screen, it’s going to go in at times. When it’s kind of quick, in stride, through the legs, that’s a tough one to stop and a tough one to see,” said Marchand. “That was a bit of a lucky bounce I think. I thought it went off the post, replay showed it going off the back of his knob. So you shoot the puck and good things happen.”

Good things continue to happen for Marchand as he rides out a hot streak and realizes the massive potential on a line that contains No. 63, Bergeron and ascending 20-year-old star talent David Pastrnak wreaking havoc at the offensive end of the ice. 


Backes, Krejci look to get rolling offensively for Bruins

Backes, Krejci look to get rolling offensively for Bruins

BOSTON – While David Backes didn’t score a goal in his first home game as a member of the Bruins, his team came away with a comeback 2-1 win Thursday night over the New Jersey Devils in their home opener at TD Garden.

The 32-year-old Backes didn’t have anything on the scoreboard to show for it, but he led all Bruins with six shots on net and seven registered hits while starring as both an offensive threat and a physical presence bringing some much-needed attitude to the table.

Both qualities meshed quickly with David Krejci once they were finally together on the same line against the Devils, and immediately gave the playmaking center the kind of big, strong and offensively talented winger that he’s thrived with over the years. The whole experience also gave Backes an appreciation for his new home fans as they packed the stands to root on the Bruins Thursday night ahead of the Saturday night showdown with Montreal.

“There’s always, wherever you are, that opening night, that first game at home, that first game of the season, there’s always that extra jump, that extra energy in the building. It was everything it was talked up to be here with the fans that know the game and really thrive off the hard-nosed play,” said Backes, who has a couple of goals in four games with the Bruins this season. “It just makes you want to go out there and play harder for these people that support you, and wear that same jersey that we wear up in the stands.”

Backes had some of the best chances that didn’t go down for the Bruins against Cory Schneider, and narrowly missed a first period score when David Krejci’s centering pass was received, and then redirected by Backes just wide of the net from his spot camped in front. The right winger was at it again in the third period with a couple more chances he couldn’t put past Schneider, but served as proof that Krejci/Backes is going to have some long, possession-heavy shifts this season by virtue of both of their talents.

“There’s no doubt [the addition of Backes] helped. You’re getting, I guess, a veteran player that plays hard and goes in and gets some hits and gets some pucks out for you. But at the same time I think you have to give David [Krejci] credit, he’s been working hard trying to find his game again,” said Julien. 

“It’s not easy when you have gone through surgery like [Krejci] has, and you know he had a late start to training camp and jumping in with the rest of the group there so that really kind of sets him back a little bit but I like the direction that he is going, I think he is working hard in practice, doing extra and doing what it takes here to find his game. Tonight was one of his better games, no doubt.”

Now, Backes, Krejci and Heinen have to get rolling offensively and start to show their balanced attack among the forwards now that the entire roster seems to be locked down ahead of starting on time this weekend vs. Habs.